10 Vintage Drum Machines That Outshine Their Low Price
Expensive doesn’t always mean good. Sometimes a cheap drum machine can be exactly the sound you need.
Everyone knows that Jeff Mills shreds on a TR-909. Or that Egyptian Lover shakes up a room with his TR-808. Or that Legendary percussionist Sheila E (who worked with Prince, Marvin Gaye, Beyoncé, Diana Ross…) makes magic happen with a Linn LM-1.
There’s no doubt that these drum machines—and the artists that made them iconic—changed music history. They redefined what virtuosity looks like. They planted the seeds for new genres and generations. But they remain out of reach for most music producers today—selling for over $5000 USD.
There’s another side of drum machine history that often remains untold. The story of artists making-do and taking cheap instruments to make a masterpiece. A good idea and a great mix make crappy gear shine. Expensive gear will never turn a bad idea into a memorable tune.
Inexpensive drum machines also find fascinating second lives in the hands of circuit benders and ‘mod’ enthusiasts. Few people would dare to open up or modify a drum machine they spend thousands of dollars on. There’s way more room for DIY creativity with something you won’t cry about if you ruin it.
Here are 10 cheap drum machines that groundbreaking artists turned into their creative secret weapon:
1. Seeburg Select-A-Rhythm Model 601B (1960s)
The Select-A-Rhythm is an American drum machine made by Seeburg Corporation in the 1960’s. Its design is typical of early drum machines of that era. It only lets you adjust the tempo with a knob and select from various non-programmable rhythm presets.
The presets are various ballroom styles: waltz, cha cha, rumba, bolero, swing and so on. But if you push the tempo knob to its upper limit, things get interesting.
That’s what caught Martin Rev’s attention. Ultimately, he used the Shuffle preset sped up to make the beat for Suicide’s most iconic song: “Frankie Teardrop” (hear it below).
Leticia is a lover of acid basslines and hypnotic techno. She DJs and produces under the name softcoresoft. Writer at LANDR.
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